Food Notes for August 3, 2020

NHL Playoffs Bring Additional Patio Space

Back in May, the City of Edmonton announced relaxed guidelines that allowed food establishments to more seamlessly open or expand patios. In the months that followed, it was great to see increased vibrancy on the sidewalks and streets.

The start of the NHL playoffs on August 1, 2020 has added another layer to this, as restaurants and pubs scramble to attract hockey fans seeking socially distant options to watch games. Many establishments that weren’t previously equipped with screens have adopted them for this purpose.

Campio Brewing was already equipped with a sizable patio, but for the playoffs, the brewpub has more than doubled their outdoor space. They’ve turned their adjacent surface parking lot into a so-called “Beer Arena”, with picnic tables and a big screen and speakers.

While it’s unlikely these transformations will be permanent (though in New York, they’re already planning for street closures beginning June 1, 2021), the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means they may need to be in place beyond this season. And urbanists can dream that more long-term changes are possible.

COVID-19-related News

  • Ra Bar, located in the McLeod Building, re-opened on August 1, 2020. They had only opened for two weeks before COVID-19 shut them down; they serve Japanese, Korean, and French fusion.

Openings

  • Yelo’d is now slinging Filipino-inspired scooped ice cream in their Sosyal Scoops food truck!
  • Winston’s Fish and Chips has added a food truck to their business.

Closures

  • Doppio Zero Pizza (the retooled Kanu Cafe) is now closed.
  • The Empress Ale House in Old Strathcona has closed.

Upcoming Events

Local News

  • Bon Ton Bakery has a beautiful new website to allow for curbside pick-up to skip the line. It’s great to see local businesses stepping up their online game.
  • The people who hope to rebuild the Transit Hotel have started a crowdfunding campaign to help their efforts. Their renovation plans include a smokehouse restaurant. They reached their $5,000 goal and have increased their next milestone to $7,000.
  • Chartier in Beaumont is now closed for a few weeks to undergo renovations.
  • Guilt Free Eats is enjoying their hectic time inside Edmonton’s NHL bubble.
  • The hockey reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tried the comfort food from The Local Omnivore from the bubble.
  • Costco has now rolled out a delivery option at 76 stores across Canada through Instacart, including in Edmonton.
  • Where Edmonton’s new Edmonton City Guide is now available (though given the current circumstances checking websites for opening updates would be advised).
  • Have you considered eating your weeds? “Wild eating” is a growing trend, says one local.

Beyond Edmonton

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • The Alberta Farmers’ Market Association is offering some cash prizes for those sharing on social media what they’ve created using products purchased at local markets. Entries are accepted until August 16, 2020.

What I Ate

  • On Fridays we picnic, or at least, that’s what we’ve tried to do this summer. We enjoyed the chicken katsu sandwich and patty melt from our new favourite neighbourhood spot, Rosewood Foods.

Rosewood Foods

Rosewood Foods in Churchill Square

  • To help beat the heat, Mack, Emily, and I donned our masks to pick up some gelato from La Carraia this weekend.

La Carraria

La Carraia

  • The Edmonton Eats event that was to showcase Somali cuisine was postponed back in March. Organizers re-tooled the event to be delivered virtually, with videos to be watched and food delivered to be enjoyed from the comfort of our own homes. Everything was delicious: the salad, while simple, was so refreshing; and the Somali rice was tasty. I think more explicit instructions or details about the food would be an improvement to consider for future events (it may not be common knowledge, for instance, that the bananas were meant to be eaten alongside the main course), but overall I was really impressed with the transition to a different format.

Edmonton Eats

Our Edmonton Eats spread

Food Notes for July 27, 2020

Italian Centre Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

On July 23, 2020, the Italian Centre Shop released news that one of their south location staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

In response to this news, we took immediate action and conducted a deep clean and sanitization of the entire store and notified Alberta Health Services (AHS). The team member who tested positive last worked shifts on July 13, 14 and 15. Today, remains self-isolated at home.

AHS is conducting close contact tracing and will contact any employee who may require testing and will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. To our knowledge, AHS has not identified any individuals to be a close contact or at risk.

The next day, the Italian Centre announced that starting July 27, 2020, all of their team members will be required to wear masks in common areas and public facing spaces.

The Italian Centre chose a proactive route, sharing the statement on all of their social media channels. This may be the course of action most advised in the food and hospitality sector as a measure of maintaining customer trust. In June, several restaurants, including Greta, MKT, and Earls Tin Palace, closed voluntarily due to staff or customers testing positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Krew Cafe is now open inside Honor Baby and Child in Lendrum (5722 111 Street).
  • The Fringe Grounds Cafe is now open inside the ATB Financial Arts Barns (10330 84 Avenue), serving food, coffee, and beer and wine.
  • Seafood City Supermarket, a Filipino/Asian grocery chain, is now open at 17540 100 Avenue.
  • You Need a BBQ offers barbecue supplies and classes, and is run by two local decorated BBQ competitors. It is located 113 65 Chippewa Road, Sherwood Park.

Upcoming Events

  • Get Cooking is resuming in-person farm dinners at Prairie Gardens with an event on August 1, 2020. Tickets are $145 per person.
  • Linda’s next Instagrammable Wall Photo Walk & Food Crawl will take place in Old Strathcona on August 8-9, 2020. Tickets are $25 per person with 25% going to the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society.
  • It’s Food Truck Friday at the Emerald Hills Sports Pavilion every Friday from 4:30-7:30pm until August 21, 2020.
  • The virtual Heritage Festival runs for the entire month of August, and “foods from…small, locally-owned cultural restaurants” will be available for purchase on August 1, 2020.

Reviews

Local News

  • Plant-based food truck Guilt Free Eats is one of the food trucks inside the NHL bubble, catering to up to 700 players and staff every day.
  • The Taste of Edmonton has extended their fundraiser to gather funds for the 2021 event. Donations will be accepted until August 31, 2020.
  • There’s a new locally-roasted coffee available in town: Kaffa, roasted by the folks behind Sugar Bowl and Eleanor and Laurent.
  • The second part of the Let’s Find Out Podcast about former restaurant Mirama’s significance to the Chinese community is now live.
  • Sharon rounds up some of the new small food-based businesses she has tried recently.
  • Jason Foster declares that the “age of local craft beer is nigh”, based on the availability of local brands at small liquor stores across the city.
  • A site called Best in Edmonton contains a variety of food-related lists, including highlighting Vietnamese restaurants, cafes, and sushi restaurants.

Beyond Edmonton

  • The Sprawl published a story about former employees’ experiences at Righteous Gelato (formerly Fiasco Gelato).
  • As many people are seeking adventures closer to home, Linda just shared a sponsored post about her food recommendations in Medicine Hat.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I finally had the chance to join an #EatWithMeYEG for the first time for a conversation about systemic racism and its impacts on food security and injustice. Thanks for the organizers for putting together a fantastic panel! For my lunch, through not an official #AdoptAShopYEG entry, I picked up my favourite beef and gouda arepa from El Fogon (Linda updated to say that 173 people collectively spent more than $8,000 during #AdoptAShopYEG week).

#EatWithMeYEG

My #EatWithMeYEG set-up

  • Mack, Emily, and I finally made it to our front porch (aka Say Uncle’s patio) on a sunny day. We found its familiarity and proximity to our home much more manageable for pandemic dining.

Say Uncle

Our Say Uncle spread

Food Notes for July 20, 2020

Buffets Greenlit to Resume

Buffets are now permitted to re-open for self-service in Alberta, following new protocols that featured input from a local buffet chain.

Staff from Buffet Royale Carvery, which has four locations in the Edmonton area, worked with Alberta Health Services on crafting guidance to maintain the health and safety of diners. These protocols include having dedicated staff to: require patrons sanitize their hands before entering the buffet line; dispense plates and utensils; and change out serving utensils after use by individuals or table groups.

Buffet Royale’s Sherwood Park location resumed dine-in buffet service on June 25, 2020.

COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Bodega Pantry is now open next to Sabor, and in addition to Spanish and Portuguese pantry staples, they also serve sandwiches, salads, and desserts.
  • Fort McMurray-based Jomaa’s Pizza & Donair has opened a location in Edmonton at 15178 127 Street.
  • Taste of Shangri-la has opened in the former Sloppy Hoggs location, at 9563 118 Avenue. They serve Indian, Chinese, and Nepali cuisine.

Upcoming Events

  • The next #EatWithMeYEG event will be held on July 22, 2020 and will focus on black-owned restaurants.
  • The second Alberta on the Plate festival takes place August 7-16, 2020, and will focus on restaurants who are highlighting local ingredients. In addition to multi-course dine-in menus, this year restaurants may also choose to offer takeaway menus. So far, Edmonton has four participating restaurants (High Level Diner, Smokey Bear, Why Not, XIX Nineteen), but more may be added. Menus will be live August 1.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • Mack, Emily, and I finally had our first dine-in experience over the weekend, outside, and contained to our household: the weather was finally cooperative for us to try Fox Burger’s rooftop patio. While the food was good (the Fox cheeseburger was really tasty), a combination of the stress related to dining out during a pandemic and dining out with a toddler has made us reconsider the next time we’ll do it again, especially in restaurants we’ve never been to before.

Fox Burger

Fox cheeseburger on the Fox Burger patio

  • We have been doing our best to eat outdoors where possible, and this week, that meant taking my treat from Rosewood Foods to enjoy by the river!

Rosewood Foods

Brown butter chocolate chip cookie from Rosewood Foods

  • We also met up for a socially distant picnic with some friends at Hawrelak Park, and combined the outing with an excuse to try Culina on the Lake. The menu is basic concession fare, but my halibut burger was made fresh to order and the fries were hot and crispy. I did wish there were plexiglass screens to protect the staff in the small indoor space, given no patrons other than me were wearing masks.

Culina on the Lake

Halibut burger and fries from Culina on the Lake

  • I’ve been referring to many of the small food businesses popping up during these last few months as “pandemic kitchens” – it will be interesting to see how many will last through the current circumstances and transition into something more permanent. At any rate, we ordered from one such business and tried some Nai Nai Mie noodles (thanks Linda for the recommendation!). I enjoyed the texture of the noodles – great chew, and the chicken portion (while small) was delicious. It would be something handy to have in the freezer as a back-up meal.

Nai Nai Mie

Nai Nai Mie at home

  • It’s no secret I miss the 104 Street market terribly; while we still patronize the indoor location, it really isn’t the same, and some of our favourite vendors have either left or been pushed out of the Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market. Al Fresco on 4th will be filling a void for me – it runs on Saturdays from 11am-4pm until September 19, 2020, and features a number of food vendors, including Riverbend Gardens, Steve & Dan’s, and Stonepost Farms.

Al Fresco on 4th

Al Fresco on 4th

Food Notes for July 13, 2020

Northern Chicken First Local Restaurant to Require Masks

With provincial and municipal leaders so far reluctant to introduce mandatory face coverings for indoor public spaces, businesses have taken it upon themselves to create and enforce mask requirements.

Back in May, T & T Supermarket required all customers entering their stores across Canada to wear masks. In Edmonton, the first restaurant to do so is Northern Chicken.

Co-owner and Chef Andrew Cowan tweeted,

“Starting Monday July 14th masks will be mandatory to enter @northchickenyeg NO EXCEPTIONS, even if you wish to done [sic] in we respectfully request to arrive and leave with a mask on.”

Masks will be required of all customers entering the premises, including those who are picking up food to go. They do have a window facing 124 Street that may be open in the evenings to allow customers to pick up take-out without entering the shop.

In COVID-19-related News

Openings

  • Breadland will likely relocate to their Garneau location (8440 109 Street) in September. To prepare, they will be closing their current location for two weeks in August.
  • Bambu, a California-based Vietnamese coffee/dessert chain, opened its first Edmonton location in Old Strathcona, at 10347 82 Avenue.
  • South Point Pizza offers “culturally inspired pizza” at 805 Tamarack Way.
  • River Cree Casino has debuted a new restaurant on its premises, called Italia.

Closures

Upcoming Events

  • Feast on Fourth is an initiative from businesses located on the 4th Street Promenade downtown. Every Thursday this summer, select businesses will be offering specials and discounts. Check the Facebook page for updated information.
  • Also on 104 Street, Al Fresco on 4th will run on Saturdays from 11am-4pm from July 18-September 19, 2020 will close the street to vehicle traffic and feature a curated vendor market, sidewalk patios, and community programming. The Facebook page will be updated with more information.

Local News

Urban Agriculture and Farming

  • Riverbend Gardens is featured in a story about how the delay in receiving Seasonal Agricultural Workers has impacted their farm.

What I Ate

  • We’ve been trying to make the most of this rainy summer and eat outdoors when possible. On Friday, this meant take-out from Grandin Fish ‘N’ Chips and a picnic at the nearby Ezio Farone Park. Super-efficient service (if we could walk faster, the order would have been ready in 10 minutes!), and both the fish and chips remained crispy when we were ready to eat it.

Grandin Fish

Emily loves a good picnic

  • We also walked over to the 124 Grand Market on Sunday – it was great to be able to support both Steve & Dan’s and Riverbend Gardens, two of the vendors we’ve patronized for many years at the former City Market. We also managed to enjoy our order from Drift before the skies opened up again – it’s been too long since my last buttermilk chicken sandwich.

Drift

Buttermilk chicken sandwich from Drift

Food Notes for July 6, 2020

Social Media Boosts One Local Restaurant

Japanese restaurant Yoshii Express (located at 10443 82 Avenue) opened in Old Strathcona in May 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With no online presence, owner Alan Demachi had been struggling.

In June, of Linda Hoang’s Instagram followers messaged her about the restaurant and Alan’s hardship, and encouraged Linda to give it a try. On June 30, 2020, she did, and shared Alan’s story on social media.

The next 48 hours were a whirlwind for Yoshii Express, with literal line-ups down the block at the restaurant, mainstream media coverage on radio and television news. In two days, Alan had sold out of everything and had to close to prepare more. By that point, Linda’s post had been shared thousands of times across several social media platforms.

In reflecting on why this particular post garnered so much attention, Linda doesn’t have an explanation, but believes it highlights that social media can have positive impacts: “Alan’s story is truly such an incredibly powerful example of how social media can be an amazing force for good, and how a single social media post can truly lead to change. It’s a heartwarming story that moved so many people.”

On the heels of this good news story, Linda will be launching a social media campaign called #AdoptAShopYEG to encourage more people to support local businesses in July.

In COVID-19-related News

Openings

Closures

Local News

  • Congratulations to Pablo, Clementine, Baijiu/Little Hong Kong and Bar Bricco for landing on the list of Canada’s 50 Best Bars.
  • Food businesses including Tres Carnales Rostizado are excited about the prospect of Edmonton becoming a hub city for the NHL playoffs.
  • Avenue Edmonton put together a food truck guide.
  • Pho King on Alberta Avenue has suffered damage from a vehicle crashing into the restaurant. Fortunately no one was in the business at the time of the crash.
  • Do you remember Mother Tucker’s Food Experience? The buffet chain started in Edmonton back in the 1970s before expanding across Canada and the US. It’s last three locations have closed permanently.
  • Local senior Mariano Trivelin has been hosting an online cooking show serving up his favourite Italian dishes; the show is produced by his grandsons. It’s been so popular that they’ve received requests for merchandise, which will be available soon. Proceeds will be donated to the Capital Care Foundation.
  • Campio Brewing is offering the chance to bid to be a “brewer for a day”, with proceeds raised going to the Edmonton Food Bank.

Beyond Edmonton

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • In between some errands last week, Mack and I picked up some take-out from Al-Salam Pita. We’ve passed by the restaurant countless times but have never planned a visit. Their portions were massive, and the falafel were great! There is so much more on the menu we can sample in future visits.

Al-Salam Pita

Falafel plate from Al-Salam Pita

  • To celebrate our ten years of living on 104 Street, we ordered in from Tzin, one of our favourite restaurants on our block. The mushroom gnocchi were fantastic, and of course, we had to indulge in their menu staple of bacon.

Tzin

Date night in with Tzin

Food Notes for June 29, 2020

Summer Food Festivals Make the News

It may not feel like summer in Edmonton this year without outdoor food festivals, but the Edmonton Heritage Festival has announced a component that may help with that feeling of withdrawal.

The multicultural performances will take place online, while up to 60 multicultural restaurants will be involved in providing diverse tastes. Heritage Festival Executive Director Jim Gibbon stated:

"We’re bringing in a bunch of local restaurants affiliated with a bunch of local cultural groups and we’re building it into our website that people can go on and for the entire month of August they’ll be able to get food from these local multicultural restaurants that maybe aren’t as well known as some of the bigger restaurants in town."

The festival had originally envisioned a drive-thru for food services but did not receive government approval in time; the Calgary Stampede was permitted to go ahead with their plan for similar services. More detail about their virtual festival will be available in July.

Events Edmonton, the organization behind the Taste of Edmonton festival, on the other hand, is making a public appeal to ensure the event can survive.

The cancellation of this year’s event “has greatly impacted 22 non-profit organizations Taste of Edmonton supports, the community, the festival industry and us at Events Edmonton. We are asking you, our fellow food and festival lovers, to donate and help us save Taste of Edmonton.” The next iteration of the festival has been postponed to July 2021. Each $100 donation will earn 40 Taste tickets for the 2021 festival.

In COVID-19-related News

Openings

Closures

  • Peche Cafe, opened by the folks behind Die Pie, is now closed. The owners chose to relocate Die Pie to this space (10255 97 Street), and are incorporating aspects of Peche Cafe into Die Pie’s menu. As was shared in their post, “This was a difficult choice for us, we were able to grow so quickly with all of the support and love that you have given to us. We chose to save Die Pie, it was our first love and our greatest passion.”
  • Smokehouse BBQ will be closing their Mayfield location at 15960 109 Avenue to focus on their food truck and catering.
  • The Downtown location of Nello’s (11520 100 Avenue) is now closed.
  • Vintage Fork, the restaurant inside Rutherford House, has now closed.

Upcoming Events

  • It’s great to see all the innovative activities small businesses have created during the pandemic, including Drift Food Truck’s “dinner and a show” with Edmonton Symphony Orchestra musicians. Their next event takes place June 30 in the Shamrock Curling parking lot.
  • The menus for Dine on the Ave, an event where food businesses showcase their specialties, are now updated. The event runs throughout July, and features 15 participating businesses this year.
  • Alberta Open Farm Days have been given the green light to go ahead, and will take place August 15-16, 2020.

Local News

  • Congratulations to Giselle Courteau, whose second cookbook, Duchess at Home, has been shortlisted for a Taste Canada Award under the “general cookbooks” category.
  • Jonathan Avis, half of the duo behind Meat Street Pies, passed away suddenly last week. My thoughts are with Thea and the rest of the family.
  • Kari Skelton has some sweet and salty ideas on how to celebrate Canada Day this year, sans fireworks.
  • Rogue Wave Coffee has started sharing more of their coffee knowledge through articles and videos on their website – up first, learn about the difference between natural and washed beans.
  • Great to see that Paraiso Tropical has rebranded with an eye-catching new logo!
  • Stephanie wrote a sponsored post about her recent box of local goods from Uproot Food Collective.
  • Alley Kat has continued their Back Alley Brews series of “limited edition one-off beers” with a release of SMaSH Session on June 25, 2020.
  • Tech Life has a profile on Arth Soni, one of the entrepreneurs behind EduEats, the food delivery service that served post-secondary campuses in Edmonton.

Urban Agriculture and Farming

What I Ate

  • I’m happy Lockstock Coffee is back open to satisfy my breakfast sandwich and kouign amann cravings.

Lockstock Coffee

Chorizo and egg sandwich from Lockstock

    • I was spoiled with a bevy of treats for my birthday last week! A friend surprised me with a brioche crown, among other things delivered from Duchess.

    Duchess

    Brioche crown from Duchess

    • My sister Felicia sent a box of Zwick’s Pretzels to our door – cheddar and pepper pretzels for the win!

    Zwick’s Pretzels

    My favourite pretzel from Zwick’s

      Food Notes for June 22, 2020

      Five Edmonton Restaurants Close Due to COVID-19 Cases

      Just over one month after Edmonton hospitality businesses were permitted to re-open for dine-in services, five local restaurants have voluntarily chosen to close due to positive COVID-19 cases of staff or customers.

      Earls (Tin Palace location), Greta, MKT, Round Two, and The Pint (Downtown location) have all temporarily shut down, and with some encouraging customers who dined at the restaurants to get tested.

      DOSC, who had only re-opened to dine-in service on June 5, has chosen to self-impose a closure for their indoor dine-in services as a “precautionary measure”. None of their staff have tested positive or shown any symptoms, and their patio remains open.

      These closures come on the heels of a provincial industry lobby group, the Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA), calling for a reduction to the two meter spacing rule between tables. They cite a recent study published in a medical journal that suggests one meter of spacing may be sufficient to lower the risk of catching the virus. The AHA argues that lowering the requirement would increase consumer capacity and help businesses become more financially sustainable.

      The Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community (EIHC) remains in favour of the two meter restriction. Chris Sills of Rostizado, a member of the EIHC who is quoted in the above article, said, “Regardless of what the science says, we’re here to make customers feel comfortable and they’re not comfortable with less than two metres.”

      COVID-19-related News

      Openings

      • Fleisch, the sister delicatessen to Cartago, is now open in Forest Heights.
      • Woodshed Burgers has confirmed that they will be opening up a new permanent Woodshed South location to meet the demand.
      • Square One Coffee hopes to open their Glenora location (Unit 140, 14055 West Block Drive) in June.
      • An Italian restaurant Del Posto will be opening up in the former Pho Langs spot Downtown, at 10056 107 Street.

      Upcoming Events

      • Linda Hoang is hosting another of her popular Instagrammable Walls walks on June 27-28, 2020 in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood. Tickets are $25 and include three food/drink stops, with 20% of sales donated to Black Lives Matter Edmonton Chapter.
      • The Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta is hosting a free virtual cooking demonstration on June 30, 2020. Chef Maynard Kolskog of NAIT’s Centre for Culinary Innovation will be preparing plant-based burgers.

      Local News

      Urban Agriculture and Farming

      • The City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Food Council are piloting a campaign called Veg Instead! that encourages Edmontonians to grow food in non-traditional areas of their properties.

      What I Ate

      • Mack, Emily, and I were out of town last week for a staycation at our favourite Alberta getaway, Prairie Creek Inn, near Rocky Mountain House. We had our own kitchen, and brought along a number of frozen entrees to lessen the time spent cooking – ramen from Dorinku, chicken pot pie from Duchess, and this comforting chicken alfredo lasagna from Milk Crate.

      Milk Crate

      Chicken lasagna from Milk Crate

      • It is hard to beat Prairie Creek’s breakfasts though, and we opted to have them delivered to our room so we could savour this view from our suite (and for the time being, continue to avoid indoor dining).

      Prairie Creek Inn

      Breakfast with a view

      Food Notes for June 15, 2020

      Edmonton Sun Columnist Graham Hicks Departs Publication

      Last week, two local food writers re-surfaced previously published reviews written by Graham Hicks in the Edmonton Sun. Carmen Cheng excerpted 2015 reviews of Korean restaurant NongBu, where Hicks questioned whether the restaurant is “too ethnic”, and another of Kazoku Ramen, where Hicks wrote that to make ramen, “Your momma could open a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, dress it up with oriental accessories and proclaim it ramen.” Cheng referred to the reviews as “racist” and as “whitewashing of content by food media.”

      The next day, Hicks announced in his final column that he was re-retiring from the Edmonton Sun without referring to the social media uproar. He also deleted his Twitter accounts that same day.

      Linda Hoang took issue with Hicks’ lack of accountability for his actions, tweeting, “This is truly an upsetting display of his own white privilege. By doing this, Graham is essentially telling everyone that he does not care if we think he’s racist. He does not care if his words hurt anyone. He will not learn from his mistakes (if they were unintentional).”

      In the wake of his departure, Hoang is hopeful that “the Edmonton Sun chooses to take this opportunity to consider whether a BIPOC writer’s perspective could better serve this space.”

      COVID-19-related News:

      Openings

      Closures

      Upcoming Events

      • Food Bike Tours have branched out into offering online Chef Kitchen Tours, just in time for Father’s Day. Attendees will be guided through recipes in a 30 minute interactive session, using ingredients delivered to their door, at the price of $90 for two people. The first two chefs scheduled in June are from Sabor and Bodega.
      • 15 hospitality businesses located in Alberta Avenue are participating in this year’s Dine the Ave. They will be featuring special menu items available to order (including through Door Dash) all through the month of July.

      Reviews

      • Twyla returned to Narayanni’s, the first restaurant she reviewed for CBC 10 years ago. She had forgotten “how freaking delicious the masala chicken is…and how rich and hearty the cream-free curries are.”

      Local News

      Beyond Edmonton

      What I Ate

      • We’ve been meaning to order burgers from Wishbone’s pop-up restaurant Grey Mare for some time, but didn’t get to it until last weekend. We tried the Daisy Duke and the Nashville hot chicken – both were very tasty. The carbonara croquettes were the standout for us though! If you’re looking to try it, make sure to order soon as it’s their last week before reverting back to Wishbone’s menu!

      Grey Mare

      Grey Mare’s Daisy Duke in the park

      Twilight Picnic Experience at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden

      It is shaping up to be the summer of the staycation, with non-essential inter-provincial travel still up in the air, and international travel ill-advised. As a result, attractions close to home are getting a long second look from locals seeking an escape from the city or something to help break up the summer months. The University of Alberta Botanic Garden seized this moment, and put together a special event that combines access to nature with local food. A couple of weeks ago, Mack, Emily, and I were invited to attend a preview of the Twilight Picnic Experience they have begun offering at the Garden.

      Located 15 minutes southwest of Edmonton in Devon, the University of Alberta Botanic Garden covers 240 hectares, boasting cultivated gardens and plant collections, indoor showhouses, and natural areas. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Botanic Garden was closed until recently; on June 1, 2020, they re-opened to visitors by reservation only.

      University of Alberta Botanic Garden

      Kurimoto Japanese Garden

      The Botanic Garden has offered food-inclusive events in the past – back in 2013, Mack and I enjoyed a carnival-themed date night catered by Elm Cafe. By comparison, the Twilight Picnic Experience presents an opportunity for a more intimate and romantic evening.

      That night, still without childcare options, and with a daughter who happens to love picnics, we brought Emily along. Before settling down for dinner, we chose to wander the grounds first, finding quiet solace in nature. It was such a privilege to have the spaces we visited to ourselves; when we were in the beautiful Aga Khan Garden this time last year, we were far from the only patrons present. Twilight Picnic Experience attendees will have exclusive access to Garden for two hours after 8pm.

      University of Alberta Botanic Garden

      Emily in the Aga Khan Garden

      Mack and I were able to observe some of the one-way signage and seating closures in place to encourage physical distancing, in preparation for busier occasions. Coupled with the Garden’s intentionality regarding guest limitations, we would feel more than comfortable returning again later this summer.

      We headed back to the Kurimoto Japanese Garden to collect our picnic box, and set up our blanket next to the water feature. The Gardens will be limiting the number of parties each night to 30, so there will be plenty of room to spread out.

      We weren’t sure what to expect from the picnic box, but upon opening, were immediately blown away by the presentation of the food. They’ve sourced sweet and savoury items from a number of local purveyors, garnished with edible flowers and herbs from the Garden itself.

      University of Alberta Botanic Garden

      Picnic box

      Our box featured products from many of our favourite small businesses and farmers’ market vendors, including fruit from Steve & Dan’s, charcuterie from Meuwly’s, sourdough from La Boule, and peppers and cucumbers from S4 Greenhouses. It was my first time trying the Happy Camel’s labaneh (yogurt cheese), a delicious spread on the accompanying fresh pita. Mack was particularly taken with the raspberry scone, while Emily devoured (and was subsequently covered in) the strawberries.

      University of Alberta Botanic Garden

      Family picnic

      For those looking for something a little more extravagant to nosh on, picnic baskets can be customized with caviar, smoked salmon, or foie gras for additional fees. As well, the Kurimoto Japanese Garden is licensed, so picnic-goers can also have a beer or some bubbly to sip along the way. Lastly, other extras are also available to enhance the evening, including bouquets of flowers and handmade cards.

      It looks like this concept of an intimate picnic at the Botanic Gardens has struck a chord with locals; all of June is already sold out!

      Thanks again to the University of Alberta Botanic Garden for hosting us that evening – it was a wonderful way to safely shake up our pandemic routine and experience some nature along the way.

      To book your own Twilight Picnic Experience, check out the University of Alberta Botanic Garden’s website.

      Food Notes for June 8, 2020

      Supporting Black-Owned Food Businesses

      In an effort to support the current Black Lives Matters protests, several local food bloggers have used their platforms to showcase local Black-owned food businesses.

      Some of the lists have referenced information gathered from Afro Biz and Black Owned YEG. Find links on Linda Hoang, YEG Cravings, and Eat with Sharon’s sites for a window into the variety of cuisines and products available throughout Edmonton. In New York, similar lists have been circulating for the last week, and some businesses have seen an uptick in sales during that period.

      On a related note, Calgary-based writer and cookbook author Julie van Rosendaal has offered to consult with aspiring BIPOC writers for free, to help ensure more diverse voices reach the mainstream.

      In COVID-19-related News:

      Openings

      • Culina On the Lake, their Hawrelak Park outpost, officially opened in February, but closed shortly after due to the COVID-19 restrictions. It has since re-opened, and now has a patio to boot!
      • It looks like the Downtown location of Wayback Burgers at 10412 Jasper Avenue is still coming soon.

      Upcoming Events

      • AMA is hosting an Ask Me Anything with Taste Alberta on June 11, 2020 that will focus on how to shop local for barbecue season.
      • The Friends of the Royal Alberta Museum Society have partnered with Get Cooking for their next event on June 11, 2020. Kathryn Joel will be leading a virtual cooking class featuring Alberta’s official 7 ingredients.
      • The folks behind the 124 Grand Market are organizing a Food Truck Fest on June 12, 2020 from 4-8pm in the parking lot of Kingsway Mall.

      Local News

      Urban Agriculture and Farming

      • The City of Edmonton’s pop-up gardening initiative is moving forward with 350 containers to 29 sites.

      What I Ate

      • Edgar Farms asparagus is in season! The asparagus arrived late this year, so the season will unfortunately be even shorter than usual. Find them at Old Strathcona, Downtown Edmonton, Bountiful, St. Albert, and Callingwood Farmers’ Markets.

      Asparagus pizza

      Asparagus pizza

      Coffee Bureau

      Emily loves ice cream!